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ICRC: SLA-AW hostages to be returned on Saturday in Darfur

March 29 - 2013 KHARTOUM

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed in an interview with Radio Dabanga the agency will assist the return of the people “taken by SLA-Abdel Wahid” on Saturday in Darfur.

ICRC spokesman in Sudan Rafiullah further confirmed the rebels’ claims that the hand over operation would initially take place on Friday.

However, “since it will be carried out through ... helicopters, which due to technical reasons were not available [on Friday], … the operation has been postponed to [Saturday]”, he told Radio Dabanga.

No further details of the procedure were given by the ICRC.   

SLA-AW: NCP agents

Mustapha Tambour, spokesman of SLA-AW, echoed Red Cross’ statement about the hand over when speaking to Radio Dabanga.  

“The 31 [hostages] were supposed to be transferred to the ICRC as promised on Friday. But due to special circumstances related to the Red Cross, they postponed the operation”, Tambour was quoted as saying.

The group was captured last Sunday on their way to the Nyala conference for displaced and refugees. They were traveling in three buses escorted by armed UNAMID peacekeepers before being stopped at a border area between Central and South Darfur.

We “told the people of UNAMID that we were representing the SLM Abdel Wahid al Nur", Tambour said, adding that they "arrested" the people "because they were almost all security people pretending to be IDPs".

Speaking to Radio Dabanga on Friday, Tambour reaffirmed his claims that the captives were not IDPs, but agents affiliated to the security forces and members of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP). 

Nevertheless, he reassured to the hostages’ families that the group is “in good conditions and in good health and they will all be reunited tomorrow”.

Despite confusion concerning the exact amount of captives, it has been established that 31 people were taken by the rebels, not 32 according to their previous allegations. 

The Chairman of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) Dr. Tijani Sese condemned UNAMID for “handing over 31 displaced to an armed movement without the slightest resistance”.

UNAMID, on its turn, condemned the arrest and said that despite its "opposition" the military group forced the IDPs to an unknown location. The mission said it was not able to independently verify the hostages’ situation.

Listen below to the statement made by ICRC spokesman in Sudan Rafiullah to Radio Dabanga (English).

Related: Darfur faction Abdel Wahid promises to release 32 IDPs on Friday (28 March 2013)

ICRC spokesman

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